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120th #BMWGTM: Week Three recap

Playoff of the powerful set for May 7

Hours after Week Three of the BMW GAP Team Matches concluded, all participants (presumably) sound asleep in their beds, thunderstorms resounded throughout the region. With those severe storms came sagacious symbolism.

| Week One recap | Week Two recap | #BMWGTM portal | Challenge Matches set |

An intense, electrifying, thunderous Playoff is here.

The previous three BMW GAP Team Matches champions — LuLu Country Club (2021), Huntingdon Valley Country Club (2019) and Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 (2017-18) — all clinched a berth following Week Three victories. Merion Golf Club, a four-time titleholder (1897, 1923, 1995, 2003), joins the aforementioned trio. It dispatched Hartefeld National (0–3, 58.5 points), 32.5–21.5, in Week Three.

The BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff is set for Saturday, May 7.

“We thought going into the Team Matches that these were the chalk teams,” Jim Sullivan, Jr., LuLu’s team captain, said. “Cricket’s obviously played great and has scored the most points [123.5 in Division AA]. Huntingdon Valley is very good and always a difficult [course] to go to. I’ve been playing against and around Merion for a long time, but not in the last several years. I don’t know all of the Merion [team members], other than they go out and beat the guys that I do know. I know that their team is very good. I think it’s going to be a really interesting battle.”

“You’ve got four pillars of GAP that seem to be firing on all cylinders,” Matthew Kocent, Philadelphia Cricket’s captain, added. “You have LuLu, which obviously won last year and has depth similar to Cricket. Merion has a lot of young players who are developing their games, and Merion is a course that can eat your lunch if you’re not playing well. Huntingdon Valley is a homer’s course. There are certain guys who like playing there and know how to play the bounces. There will be multiple iterations of lineups in the next 36-48 hours.”

In Week Three, LuLu (3-0, 102 points) made a necessary lineup adjustment that seemingly set its winning wheels in motion. Michael R. Brown, Jr. and Jack Melville, the team’s primary road pairing, generated 14.5 points overall through two weeks of competition. Travel plans split the duo in Week Three against Llanerch Country Club (2-1, 86 points). Brown, returning from a trip to Florida, played at Llanerch alongside Scott McLaughlin. 

That pairing swept the better-ball portion. McLaughlin inked four birdies coming in to secure three singles points. And Brown salvaged a point in his bout against Llanerch’s previously impervious John Lalley. 

At LuLu, Melville teamed with Jon Rusk to halve the better-ball portion. Each garnered 2.5 singles points, respectively. LuLu quelled Llanerch’s Playoff prospects with a 33–21 win.

“You’ve got four pillars of GAP that seem to be firing on all cylinders.”

Matthew Kocent

“Those two pairings getting 13.5 points was great. I didn’t see it ahead of time. It was a little fortuitous,” Sullivan, 47, of Glenside, Pa., said. “Jack being at home was the result of Michael’s flight potentially being canceled. He texted me at 6:30 a.m. from the airport saying he was on time and things were going well. He was chomping at the bit to get back and play. For us, to have our best player show that type of commitment sort of works its way through the lineup.”

Huntingdon Valley’s worked lineup wonders to arrive at the Playoff once again. Through three weeks, a total of 18 individuals represented the team. 

“We’re lucky. We try to give a lot of guys chances to play,” Andrew Mason, Huntingdon Valley’s captain, said. “Everyone has played well when they’ve come up. Everybody earned it, so we tried to get as many guys as we could to get some exposure on the first team. It worked out. I don’t know if that’s the right or wrong way to do it.”

Result alone indicates right way. Huntingdon Valley (3-0, 110.5 points) defeated Whitemarsh Valley Country Club (1-2, 78 points), 38–16, in Week Three.

Connor Hill, Conor McGrath and 2019 folk hero Billy Reube cycled into the Huntingdon Valley lineup. Hill, playing in the No. 4 spot at home, swept the singles and better-ball portion alongside Sean Seese. McGrath, the reigning BMW Philadelphia Amateur Champion, also swept his singles match and teamed with Jake Fazio for 2.5 better-ball points. Reube joined Mason to earn 2.5 better-ball points at Whitemarsh Valley.

“Everyone played pretty well,” Mason, 33, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., said. “Whitemarsh is in great shape. It was firm. It was fun. There’s a great group of guys over there. We were fortunate to get through.”

Less fortune, more conviction in the case of Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 (3-0, 123.5 points). It turned back Playoff hopeful Glenmaura National Golf Club (2-1, 87 points), 40–14.

“I think everyone on the team, from top to bottom, was ecstatic,” Kocent, 27, of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., said. “We won more points away than we did at home, which is a testament to the depth of our players and our away team really grinding. It was a full team effort.”

Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 amassed 21.5 points on the road. Marty McGuckin, the 2016 GAP Junior Player of the Year, and Sean Semenetz, the 2019 Pennsylvania Golf Association R. Jay Sigel Amateur Match Play Champion, led the charge with a combined seven points. The reflexive 1-2 pairing at Philadelphia Cricket, Conrad Von Borsig and Brandon Raihl, fared just as well, accounting for eight points. Von Borsig and Raihl shared medalist honors in GAP Middle-Amateur Championship Qualifying at Heidelberg Country Club five days ago.

No, co-medalists didn’t dictate cohabitation in Week Three.

“They played all of their matches together last year. They’re trusted partners. It seems like they hit it off and secured their points as well,” Kocent said. “Matching personalities is just as important as how people are playing. If you’re comfortable with who you’re playing next to and have all of the trust in your guy, then it takes a little pressure off of you. It seemed to work out for us.”

How about Merion (3-0, 102 points) working its way back into the championship conversation? Its last Playoff appearance occurred a decade ago; it finished fourth behind Little Mill Country Club (66 points), Philadelphia Cricket Club 1 (62.5) and Overbrook Golf Club (58).

Merion struggled to gain its footing since. It dropped out of Division AA in 2018 after losing a Challenge Match against Running Deer Golf Club, 33.5–20.5. Merion returned to the Team Matches’ top tier by topping Commonwealth National Golf Club, 42–12, in a Challenge last year.

“The team is just excited to get back into the Playoff. We’re excited but we know that the other three teams in the Playoff are very strong at the top and have a ton of depth,” Patrick Knott, Merion’s captain, said. 

Merion is demonstrating its talent pool, too. With key contributors Nelson Hargrove and Joe Roeder unavailable for Week Three, it relied upon replacements Trey Marucci and Cameron Warner. Marucci earned 2.5 singles points and teamed with Paul Liebezeit to sweep the better-ball portion. At Hartefeld National, Warner grabbed 2.5 singles points as well. He and Knott added two better-ball points to the Merion coffers.

“I’ve got absolute confidence in whomever we send out there, Nos. 1-12, this week,” Knott, 36, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., said. “The Playoff is one of the most fun days you’re going to have. We’re just going to go out, try and enjoy it and see where the chips fall at the end of the day.”

The BMW GAP Team Matches Playoff includes teams from Division AA, the event’s top tier. Three players of each participating club play at each venue. Each player competes in a four-way match against one player from another team.

BMW GAP Team Matches
Since 1897, the BMW GAP Team Matches has been contested annually, save World War II (1943-45), a severe ice storm (1994) and the COVID-19 pandemic (2020). The Association’s forefathers conceived the Matches to promote spirit, fellowship and camaraderie. It started with the four founding clubs – Belmont Golf Association (now Aronimink Golf Club), Merion Cricket Club, Philadelphia Country Club and Philadelphia Cricket Club – each fielding two teams with six players per side. First known as the Interclub Team Matches, the event changed to the Suburban League Matches in 1915 before adopting its current moniker in 1997. BMW is the event’s presenting sponsor for the eighth consecutive year.

GAP
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 330 Member Clubs and 90,000 individual members are spread across Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.